- Author: Marisa Neelon
- Author: Eli Figuroa
- Co-PI: Charles Go
Teens enrolled in Contra Costa County's virtual YPAR series gained knowledge about the social determinants of health and explored career trajectories to address critical health issues in their community. These projects help to increase community health and wellness and promote college readiness and access
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed health inequities associated with the social determinants of health (SDOH),1 which “are the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of-life-risks and outcomes.”2 Educating young people about the SDOH and engaging them in youth-led research to address health issues in their community is essential in shaping their future education and career goals.
How UC Delivers
The pandemic presented challenges initiating and engaging students in educational programs such as a Youth-Led Participatory Action Research Project (YPAR) because of the transition to online learning. Meeting the challenge to pivot from in-person to virtual programming, the Contra Costa County YPAR coordinator successfully facilitated a 100% remote youth-led program during the 2020-2021 school year at a new site, Dozier Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS), in Antioch, California.
DLMHS is a charter school where 58.9% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged.3 The school focuses on health and medicine and developing future health professionals and was selected because its mission and values align with CFHL, UC to help people lead healthier lives.
An existing relationship with a DLMHS teacher and 4-H parent led to a virtual meeting with the principal who agreed to offer a YPAR program at DLMHS. Students were recruited through the school website and social media platforms, and five teens from the 11th grade were interviewed and selected to join the program and were also enrolled in 4-H.
The YPAR coordinator and a colleague from Merced County met with the teen leaders weekly over Zoom. They used various educational tech tools to facilitate activities from the Community Futures, Community Lore's Nine Stepping Stones guides to educate student leaders about YPAR. To encourage critical thinking and learning, the coordinators assigned videos and readings for group discussion that addressed the SDOH. These activities exposed the teens to health inequities in their community to consider for their YPAR project and fueled their career aspirations to make a difference in individual and community health.
After this program year, four of the five teens completed a survey. They reported learning about the SDOH and when asked what, if any, impact this project had on their future education plans or future career interests, responses included:
“This project has opened my eyes to many different issues in my community and I feel like in my future job/career interests I will bring these issues with me and try to make a change so new generations don't see the same issues that we did. I want to make a change with my line of study.”
“I want to be a Doctor of Internal Medicine due to the program since I have learned the factors in the environment that affect health and can even cause chronic conditions which could be prevented or alleviated with the right nutrition and physical activity.”
These responses indicate new learning about community health and wellness, as well as increased college readiness. Youth participating in YPAR projects focused on nutrition and physical activity interventions, have been shown to promote healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease.4;5 UCCE Contra Costa County's effort demonstrate UC ANR's public value of Healthy People and Communities.
1. Abrams, E. M., & Szefler, S. J. (2020). COVID-19 and the impact of social determinants of health. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 8(7), 659-661.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social Determinants of Health: Know What Effects Health. https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm. Accessed September 7, 2021.
3. California Department of Education. California School Dashboard. 2020. https://www.caschooldashboard.org/reports/07616480117218/2020. Accessed September 7, 2021
4. Nour, M., Lutze, S., Grech A., & Allman-Farinelli, M (2018). The Relationship between Vegetable Intake and Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies. Nutrients. 10(11), 1626.
5. US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf. Accessed October 18, 2021./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>